"Do as many pronunciation drills as you can, as early as you can."
Yes, this is one major thing. The same advice I gave Saoshun here. I've known many laowai who didn't practice tones and/or pronunciation from the start and, years later, still have problems (in some situations) being understood. Zuckerburg seems like an example of that.. his pronunciation and tones are horrible (I know he's been busy with other things, though ).
My other advice is always going to be: learn the characters, from the ground up.
The pronunciation, meaning, and physical appearance of each character are all deeply connected. If you can learn the writing system from the ground up -- strokes, radicals, character history, etc -- at the same time as learning to speak, your understanding of the language as a whole will be much stronger than someone who just picks up spoken Chinese, or someone who just learns to read text.
As said, Chinese must be learned from characters , from ground up.
I go one step further, from the components within the Chinese characters and which comprise the heart of the Chinese characters.
I cannot imagine how good Chinese can ever be learned in Mainland China from the bastardised JianTiJi. Chinese with the heart ripped out of Chinese with components all gone or replaced with X and X and X.
I found to my sorrow, my Chinese female undergrad guide and Chinese tutor unable to comprehend the words on old granite stele which I could partially read from the components and the Japanese tourists next to me could read but she could not read.
I cannot imagine lauwai in China learning to read chinese when all they got is a bastardised pidgin kind of Chinese that they then get so proud about, not knowing they not even scratching the surface of Chinese.
They will be like my female chinese undergrad guide and friend humming and hooing over Chinese words on old granite steles and written on side of temple walls and in any books printed in China other than under Mao Tze Tung.
To get into a language, that language must be a living language used by the people that you live with.
The FanTiJi, the complete full Chinese can only be found in Taiwan and in Hongkong.
Or you can go learn the bastardised JianTiJi in Beijing and Mainland China.
You might as well learn Pidgin English in New Guinea and pride yourself in fluet pidgin English.
Edited by shanlung, 24 April 2015 - 08:52 AM.